DUPONT, Wash. — Two members of the first class of SMART Heroes, the unionized sheet metal bridge from military life to a civilian career in sheet metal, welding, and HVAC, are set to graduate in November and January. 

Joshua Buckley, 40, and Richard Quintana, 55, were members of the first SMART Heroes class, which began in August 2017. Upon graduation from the program, they entered the apprenticeship as second-year students at Western Washington Sheet Metal, the training center of Sheet Metal Workers Local 66, in Dupont. This means Buckley and Quintana will graduate the five-year apprenticeship in four years — Buckley in November, Quintana in January.  

Both soldiers said they chose sheet metal because they enjoy working with their hands as well as the comradery and benefits the union provides. 

“It was a really smooth transition,” Buckley said. “You stand together. You’re stronger together than you are apart. The Army is the same way.” 

“I had choices after retirement. I knew sheet metal would be actually working. I didn’t want to sit at a desk anymore,” Quintana added. “I also didn’t want to be in charge of a bunch of people. The Army isn’t the easiest thing to be in charge of people. You can go somewhere and you will come back with half of them. It takes a toll. I needed a break. I wanted to work with my hands, and this one sort of fell in my lap.” 

Buckley currently works in architectural, or decorative, sheet metal often used to make building exterior and interiors aesthetically pleasing. Quintana plans to work in HVAC service. 

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